I am very particular where I buy fresh seafood and usually go straight to the source, a seafood company or a grocer who buys direct, so I was thrilled to find in a small grocery store that I frequent, fresh clams from Half Moon River Clam company in Savannah Georgia, owned and operated by John Pelli. John has basically a one man operation growing and harvesting his clams and wants to keep his company small. He is licensed and the waters that he puts his clam seeds in are monitored for cleanliness by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
The clams I bought for the Thai Clams and Noodles dish are mid-neck clams which are from 1 1/ inches to 1 1/2 inches thick. Clams are graded out according to size from the 3/4 inch pasta on up to chowders which are 2 1/2 inches and up. Clams have a shelf life of about two weeks when the waters are cold, but the
shelf life in the summer is only about one week. When harvesting in the summer months, John Pelli is very diligent in keeping his clams at the proper temperature by putting them in coolers with frozen bottles of water to gradually bring their temperatures down so as not to shock them. His clams are sweet and has a natural briny flavor.
An unpretentious dish, Thai Clams and Noodles is quite simple to prepare and not counting the time needed for scrubbing the clams and soaking them in cold, salted water can be on the table in about 30 minutes or less. Garlic, crushed red pepper and scallions make up the spicy seasonings, water and rice wine or sake make up the liquids to cook the clams in. A heavenly dish that should serve 6, but only the two of us as we were watching the college football games this past Saturday.
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
8 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed and sliced thin
8 scallions, trimmed, cut into 1 1/2 inch lengths and smashed with the flat side of a knife
1 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup rice wine or sake. (I used a ginger wine that is make by placing the whole pieces of ginger, unpeeled, in a jar with sherry or white wine and refrigerated for several days to infuse.)
3 pounds mid neck clams, scrubbed, soaked in salted water to cover for an hour to allow the clams to purge themselves of any sand and debris.
1/4 pound somen or angel hair pasta, cooked until tender, rinsed under warm water and drained
1 cup Thai holy basil or sweet basil, finely shredded
2 tablespoons fish sauce, optional
Heat a large heavy saucepan over high heat.Add the oil and heat until hot,about 30 seconds. Add the crushed red pepper, garlic and scallions and stir fry for about 30 seconds, or until fragrant. Add water and rice wine, cover and bring to a boil. Add the clams, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook, shaking the pot occasionally to cook the clams evenly for about 8 minutes, or until the clams open. Discard any clams that don’t open.
Divide the noodles equally among six soup bowls. Add the basil to the clams, stir gently, cover and cook for 30 seconds. Add the optional fish sauce. Ladle the clams and broth into the bowls and served immediately.
Recipe adapted from “Asian Noodles” by Nina Simonds